Portland goes Gaga: Singer says discharge homophobes, not gays

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PORTLAND — One of the world’s most famous pop stars visited Deering Oaks Park Monday afternoon to rally support for overturning the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Lady Gaga spoke to a crowd of about 2,500 shortly after 5 p.m., telling them that not allowing gays to serve openly in the military is analogous to not allowing an American to order prime rib.

“I don’t get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer, ” Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, said. Her 15-minute speech, she said, was entitled “The Prime Rib of America.”

The singer also mentioned the meat dress she wore to the MTV Video Music Awards earlier this month and, continuing the analogy, said everyone should have the right to wear a meat dress. On Monday, however, she wore a pantsuit, polka-dot tie and over-sized black-frame eyeglasses.

She suggested that instead of forcing out military service members who are openly gay, or “outed,” the military instead should banish its homophobic members.

Her appearance in Maine was organized by the Servicemembers Labor Defense Network, the national group leading the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

It was meant to send a message to Republican Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, seen as key votes in Tuesday’s scheduled vote to end debate on the policy, which has banned gays from serving openly in the military since 1993.

Snowe issued a statement Monday afternoon that showed she favors continuing the debate. She said “we should all have the opportunity to review (a) report which is to be completed on Dec. 1, as we re-evaluate this policy and the implementation of any new changes.”

A comprehensive review of DADT was ordered by the Obama Administration in March. Snowe’s statement suggests she supports amending the defense spending bill to allow for that continuance.

Monday’s free event was pulled together over the weekend, giving the city less than 48 hours to prepare for the flood of Gaga fans. The crowd Monday afternoon included lots of kids and teenagers, and entire families.

Along with Lady Gaga, several former service members spoke, along with Portland Mayor Nick Mavodones and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.

Mavodones called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a bad policy.

“It hurts our military and has cost this country enough,” he said. “No one should lose their job simply because they’re gay.”

Pingree compared allowing gays to serve openly to the past debate over letting women serve in combat.

“Let’s face it, discipline has not suffered (because of women in combat),” Pingree said.

She also acknowledged that many people in the crowd Monday “have never been to a political rally before.”

While Lady Gaga was undoubtedly responsible for drawing the neophytes Monday, the crowd also included many local gay rights advocates who held signs and distributed fliers.

Trish Hayes, a Raymond resident held a sign that said, “Gaga helps but have you called?” The sign had the phone numbers for Snowe and Collins on the back.

“I’m a gay rights supporter and I like Lady Gaga,” Hayes said. Like almost everyone, Hayes found out about the rally Sunday night after Gaga used Twitter to announce her appearance. She said she called the offices of Snowe and Collins shortly after that to tell them to support ending DADT.

“The first time I called, their mailboxes were full,” Hayes said. She was eventually able to leave a message early Monday morning.

A Senate vote was expected Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 21, although Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., threatened a filibuster.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net

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Lady Gaga speaks from the bandstand in Deering Oaks Park on Monday, Sept. 21. The pop star visited Portland to speak against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards gays in the service.

People started to line up hours before the expected arrival of pop star Lady Gaga, who visited Portland on Monday, Sept. 21, to speak at a Deering Oaks Park rally against the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards gays in the service.

Lady Gaga shakes hands with fans as she walks from her tour bus to the bandstand in Deering Oaks Park on Monday, Sept. 21. The pop star visited Portland to speak against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards gays in the service.

Pop star Lady Gaga drew a colorful crowd to Deering Oaks Park in Portland on Monday, Sept. 21, for a rally against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards gays in the service.

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